Cardinal McCarrick, at Notre Dame, asks America to share blessings

by David A. Wemhoff

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington told a capacity crowd Sept. 23 at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus of the University of Notre Dame that “we who are so blessed in this country must share with others and make sure we help show these blessings to everybody.”p. Calling Notre Dame “an extraordinary place,” the cardinal said that “the university carries a great burden of responsibility.” That responsibility includes its commitment to excellence, to helping the poor, and remaining Catholic, he added.p. Cardinal McCarrick made the comments as part of his homily at a Mass concelebrated with approximately 20 other priests and bishops from the United States and Africa.p. The Mass was part of a four-day conference titled “A Call to Solidarity with Africa,” which was a joint effort of the University of Notre Dame, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, and other lay and religious organizations. A second meeting is planned for Jan. 4-11, 2004, in Nigeria.p. More than 60 clerics, scholars, businessmen, government representatives, educators, directors of relief and other nongovernmental organizations presented a variety of panel discussions about Africa during the conference.p. The topics ranged from a discussion of the problems confronting Africa to the role of the United States, the international community and the Catholic Church in addressing these problems so Africa can move forward.p. Msgr. Obiora F. Ike, director of the Catholic Institute for Development, Justice and Peace in Nigeria, said Africa can transmit values that America, and indeed Western society, has largely ignored or forgotten, with its materialism, disrespect for human life and banishment of God from public life.p. Msgr. Ike was co-presenter at a seminar titled “Agenda for a New Africa.” He spoke of an African renaissance based largely on traditional African culture.p. While Africa recuperates from the effects of colonialism, globalization presents a separate set of dangers, he said. Top among those dangers, he said, are wars, threats to the family, the marginalization of peoples, the inability to compete and the imposition of political systems that are not culturally rooted.p. To provide the greatest happiness and stability, he said, any authentic development must be consistent with African culture because that culture emphasizes the importance of people.p. Andrew Natsios, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, touched on a number of initiatives being undertaken in Africa by the U.S. government. The initiatives are designed to build democracy and good governance, preserve the Congolese forests, reduce and eliminate hunger, promote trade, provide health care and primary education, and introduce the Internet, he said. Increasingly, U.S. AID programs are structured to reward performance by African governments, encourage investment in people, allow partnerships with the private sector, and promote local ownership of resources, businesses and projects, he said.p. Natsios described the agency’s work to reduce AIDS, which has infected up to 40 percent of the population in some countries. He said the greatest success in reducing the spread of the disease occurred in Uganda through an emphasis on abstinence and faithful relationships and a national leadership that repeatedly called for healthier behavior.p. While Natsios sees churches as a means to reach individuals with the U.S. agency’s programs, others see a different role for the church.p. Lamin Sanneh, a Yale University professor, called on the church to provide leadership in several areas for the continent of Africa.p. First, he said, it must enter into partnerships with others in addressing issues of civil governance and social stability. He said the church also must be involved in the preparation and promulgation of a bill of rights protecting the family, while ensuring a degree of personal freedom not inconsistent with the family.p. Third, Sanneh said, the church must encourage lay activities consistent with its social and moral teachings so religion can permeate all aspects of life. Finally, Sanneh stressed the need of the Catholic Church to meet the challenge posed by Muslim leaders’ attempts to assume political power.p. He called on the church to resist efforts to make the Shariah, or Islamic law, the public law of African countries. That could best be done by engaging in dialogue with Muslims, he added. The conference concluded Sept. 24 with a wrap-up session that focused on what was discussed and what must be done, while looking ahead to the Nigerian conference.p. At the close of the Sept. 23 Mass at the basilica, Bishop John M. D’Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend said about 11 percent of Notre Dame graduates go on to serve others in fighting hunger and seeking social justice.p. By its nature, a Catholic university must reach out to the world in which it exists, and with “A Call to Solidarity with Africa,” he said, Notre Dame was doing just that.

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